Today is a day of a lot of LaBeouf. Depending on your stance on the polarizing figure, it could be too much Lebeouf, or exactly the amount of Labeouf you’d always wished for. For, earlier, Labeouf released the video from his December 2015 project, #TOUCHMYSOUL. And now, Labeouf is currently in an elevator. This wouldn’t normally be news — celebrities are quite often, I assume, in elevators — except that he’ll be in the elevator for 24 hours…twice. And so continues his long, multifarious project to explore the simultaneity of being famous (or not being famous!) and doing things for long periods of times.
Let’s start with the soul-touching.
Shia LaBeouf’s follow up art project to #ALLMYMOVIES — a feat of endurance, a searing look into a media-scrutinized personal chronology, a deepened exploration of The Even Stevens Movie — was a piece that likewise begot a memorable hashtag: #TOUCHMYSOUL.
At once dead-serious but seemingly self aware — pairing a gentle new agey idea with dictatorial capital letters and the general reductiveness of the hashtag — #TOUCHMYSOUL wondered, as Labeouf put it, “how we can truly connect with another person across the networks, what that feels like, and how we can be moved by such an encounter.”
As a video of the last project — posted on Rolling Stone (and below) — details, Labeouf and his performance art collaborators Nastja Säde Rökkö and Luke Turner, “invited people to pick up the telephone and touch their soul.” The project took place between December 10 and 13 of 2015 at a Liverpool Gallery, outside of which a phone number was displayed with the simple but challenging prompt, “Can you touch my soul?” There were 1089 calls altogether, and the accompanying video is a sample of select interactions. On the other side of the line, Labeouf and his two peers would answer the calls, “You’ve reached Labeouf, Rökkö and Turner, can you touch my soul?” “Oh my God, I don’t actually know,” responds one early caller.
One caller in the video thanks the collective (LaBeouf Rönkkö & Turner) for bringing “art back into [her] life,” which is contrasted with the following, critical caller, who asks Labeouf, “Do you think of using your reputation to make a bigger change in the world as opposed to using it for social media stunts?…You have millions of people following you, why don’t you start a trend trying to aid other people? There’s loads of people in the world struggling, loads of scenarios where people need aid.”
The calls do get long, and serious. In a seeming effort to assert just how much #TOUCHMYSOUL means in contrast to that last critique, the video is edited so that the call immediately following is from a woman calling with her disabled son on the line; the woman begins crying. An 18 year old calls to discuss his struggles with depression and social anxiety, but states that performing arts have helped him through it. Other people call, simply, to discuss souls. You can watch the video with all the calls here:
And now for the elevator. Shia LaBeouf is doing a talk at Oxford University. Leading up to it, he’s staying in an elevator for 24 hours… and then following the talk, he’ll repeat the endurance test. (This one, by the way, is called #ELEVATE). According to the video description of this one, “Visitors will be able to join LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner inside the elevator during this time, and are invited to address the artists, the debating chamber, and the internet, so that their collective voices may form an extended, expansive and egalitarian Oxford Union address.”
You can watch it all happen live, via YouTube: